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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A True Tale of a Ringtail

Photo by Michael M. Collins

Friday's post drew out the true-life testimonies of two CTC readers -- convincing proof once again that Ringtail isn't a fairy tale fabrication.

Entomologist Michael Collins' comment brought back fond memories of collecting days with some mutual friends and mentors, and it came with the photographic proof seen above.

Here's his tale . . .

"I had in 1988 a humorous encounter with a ringtail while blacklighting near Lake Pena Blanca in the Atascosa Mts. west of Nogales AZ . 
It was a moon-less night, best for blacklighting for saturniid moths (my specialty), and the world was very dark beyond the blue glow of the light and sheet. 
Nevertheless, I thought I saw a shape quickly moving through the brush, right at the edge of the steep rocky cliff near which I had set up my light.
I began shooting in the direction of the movement with my Nikon film camera, not sure I had recorded anything. 
I did notice that several large sphinx moths began disappearing from the ground around the sheet! 
On getting the prints back a week later I first admired the thick black-and-white tail that I captured exiting the frame, flipped through the prints, and found I had by good luck caught a ringtail in decent focus, who was in turn focused on taking the best moth specimens that were coming in. 
These neat little animals are probably common in the Yuba River canyon near my home in Nevada City, where 49er prospectors called them "miner's cats", but I have never seen one in the wild in all this time in California.
The Arizona sighting was a rare and special treat."

If it's scientific exploration in the field that turns you buy Dr Collins' memoir -- Moth Catcher: An Evolutionist's Journey Through Canyon And Pass, and check other interesting titles listed in the University of Nevada Press's  Holiday Sale (click on Sale). The prices are right!

And thank you, Michael, for sharing that evocative memory.


JK said...

Thanks for the reading recommendation Codge. Putting it on the reading list. What a serendipitous photograph!

Anonymous said...

Hey Chris now that photo is something both of us dream about.
I have caught fleeting glimpes of two Ringtails when driving very early in the morning. Once was in the Klamath river canyon and the other on Mosquito Ridge Road near Foresthill,California. Good post!

Chas S. Clifton said...

I know that there are ringtails here in the southern Colorado foothills, but they are still on my camera-trapping "want list."

An outdoorsy friend from further north was once camping in a narrow, rocky canyon one county north of here. He said that he was awakened in the night by a "skinny raccoon" trying to get into his backpack.

Yep, a ringtail.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Great to hear about those ringtail experiences.

PaintDog said...

I was fortunate enough to be able to trap ringtails in the Sutter Buttes as part of a Mammalogy class (CSU Sacramento) I took in the early 80's. A once in a lifetime experience to see a ringtail up close and personal. I think we actually caught two of them. Wonderful, beautiful critters.